Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Picodon AOP Goat’s Milk Cheese. The First Goat's Cheese to be Awarded an AOC.

from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman
behindthefrenchmenu@gmail.com

Welcome to the world of Picodon

The Picodon AOP cheese, (also called the Picodon de la Drôme AOP or Picodon d'Ardèche AOP), is a 45% fat (29.1% dry weight), lightly spicy to spicy goats' milk.  Pasteurised and unpasteurized versions are available. The cheese’s spiciness depends on the cheese's maturity.

The ages of Picodon AOP

The youngest cheese, the Picodon Jeune, has a white or bluish edible rind and is aged from 8 - 12 days; it is likely to be in your salad or mixed with olive oil and herbs as a spread.  Then, from twelve days to one month, the next stage, the Picodon Mi-affine, will be cooked in pastries, prepared as a cream of Picodon sauce or part of another recipe.  More mature Picodon AOC cheeses will have been aged for at least 30 days (Picodon Affine) and comes with an ivory or darker rind; they will be on the cheese platter. The mature Picodons comes with tastes and spiciness that depend on the way the cheese was aged. The Picodon Affiné Lave passes through alternating periods of aging and washing with clear water and is called the Affiné Méthode Dieulefit, or with washes in wine, the Affiné Lavé. These mature cheeses are considered a step up from the younger Picodons and they have a bite that can surprise the uninitiated, though they are not the strongest of France's goat's cheeses.

Picodon AOP
www.flickr.com/photos/vialbost/14619321321/

Picodon AOP was the first goats' cheese to receive a French AOC (now an AOP) and that was in 1983. The cheese's origins, however, date back to the 14th or 15th century.

The cheese is produced in small discs that weigh from 45 - 60 grams (1.59 - 2.11 oz) with some slightly heavier. The best Picodon AOP cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk on the farms where the goats are raised with a number of larger dairies producing cheeses made with pasteurized milk. Nearly all the Picodon AOP cheese comes from the departments of Drôme and Ardèche in the administrative region of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps. 

The meaning of Picodon.

The citizens of Ardèche and Drôme, and others in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône–Alps, will not be surprised that Picodon AOP is a spicy cheese. Nearly all the long-time residents of the region speak or understand some of the old Occitan language and Picodon just means spicy in Occitan.  

(Occitan is the language that, over 200 years ago, lost out to modern French as the language that would unite the French nation. Nevertheless, Occitan or one of its dialects, like Provencal or Niçoise, is still spoken in many homes in many parts of France; that is apart from perfect French). 




Members of the AOP production team.
  
For at least seven months of the year, the goats are free-range. They will be eating grass and wild herbs, hawthorn leaves, acorns, and chestnuts. In the winter, they are fed grasses collected from the same area during the summer, and as may be expected, the winter hay and dried grasses produce a cheese with a slightly different taste.
  
In a restaurant, when you have chosen your three or four kinds of cheese from the cheese trolley or have ordered a pre-selected cheese plate that includes Picodon AOP, do remember that its flavor can overpower milder cheeses so enjoy the Picodon after the others.
  
Picodon at different ages
  
Picodon AOP on your menu:
  
Velouté de Potimarron aux Éclats de Châtaigne et Crème de Picodon – A velvety soup made with pumpkin and flavored with slices of chestnuts and a cream of Picodon cheese sauce.

Velouté de Chou au Picodon
A velvety cabbage soup with Picodon

La Salade Picodon: Picodon Chaud Dans sa Feuille de Brick, Lardons, Salade Verte.  A Picodon AOP salad made with hot Picodon cheese served inside Feuille de Brick. Feuille de Brick (often just called Brik) is a flaky thin durum wheat semolina-based pastry of Tunisian origin. Here the pastry stuffed with Picodon cheese is accompanied by bacon pieces and a green salad.
   
Carpaccio de Boeuf Mariné et Son Croustillant de Picodon – A beef Carpaccio made with marinated beef and accompanied by a crisply grilled (or fried) Picodon cheese.
  
Tiramisu with strawberries and Picodon
For the Recipe click here.:
 
Salade au Magret de Canard Fumé et Flan du Terroir au Picodon. - A salad of smoked duck breast served with a traditional tart made with Picodon cheese. (French flans are usually tarts made using pâte brisée, a crusty pastry).
       
Suprême de Poulet De l’Ardèche Sauce Crème de Picodon, Crique Ardéchoise.  Breast of Ardèche chicken served with a Picodon cream sauce and accompanied by a Crique Ardéchoise, which is a traditional Ardèche potato pie.    A crique in your French-English dictionary may indicate a creek or even a fiord; however, the word crique here comes from the Occitan language and not modern French.
      
A Crique Ardéchoise, a traditional Ardeche potato pie.

Picodon, Picodon, and more Picodon
   
If you are traveling around this area, you will see other cheeses with the word Picodon on the label, though without the AOP. These different Picodon cheeses are traditional variations of the more well-known Picodon AOP and were created around the same time as the Picodon AOP, probably in the 14th or 15th century; however, they have slightly different textures and flavors. Many of these other Picodon cheeses are excellent, but only available locally as they do not produce enough for commercial distribution outside a very limited area. On the plus side, they will cost you less than their more famous cousin.
  
Cheese on sale at the covered market in Libourne, France.
www.flickr.com/photos/londonexpat/49535292068/
   
When buying a Picodon AOC cheese, or one of its close cousins, try and do so in fromagerie, a cheese shop. A fromagerie has trained, knowledgeable staff and will be able to explain the differences among the various Picodons and vacuum pack your purchases if you are buying some cheese to take home. For the link to buying cheese in France and taking it home, click here.   
Warm goat’s cheese salad.




The Picodon Fete
    
If you visit the Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes, remember that the third Saturday and Sunday in July brings you the Fête de Picodon. The fete is held in the village of Saoû, in the department of Drôme. The village of Saoû, with less than 600 inhabitants, is the Picodon AOP producers' promotional center.  Here you may enjoy Picodon AOP cheese tastings together with local wines. The fete also has attractions planned for children that include parades with clowns wandering around. On Saturday, there is a human circus that everyone can enjoy, and Saturday night brings several free concerts. Of course, you will have to pay for all the snacks, plates of French Fries, cheeses, and wines that you consume. On Sunday, there is a huge luncheon that you may join in, for a very reasonable price; however, you must order a place in advance, and that you may do via the internet. Usually, the Sunday includes a large market selling nearly everything under the sun: antiques, would-be antiques, modern artworks, fruits, wines, other cheeses, and more. Within 30 km (19 miles) of Saoû, there are plenty of B and B's and hotels up to 3 and 4 stars, but book ahead.

N.B., as, unfortunately, expected, the 2020 fete has been canceled, but make a note in your diary for the 17th and 18th July 2021.
 The village of Saoû
www.flickr.com/photos/97319257@N07/9023292346/

For the French-language website of the "La Fête du Picodon" click or copy/paste the link below.  The website is easily understood in English with the Google or Bing translation apps.


The Confrérie de Picodon

The Confrérie de Picodon is the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Knights of the Picodon Cheese. These brave knights dress up in would-be ancient costumes, and as interested parties work to promote the Picodon AOP cheese. They will be in costume during the fete, and at other times when they will be checking that you are only sold the genuine article.   
  
The Confrérie de Picodon
   

Apart from promoting the Picodon AOP cheese, the village of Saoû along with other communities close bye has activities throughout the year, from rock climbing to music festivals. Apart from these activities, there are many different cheeses and wines from the Ardèche and the Drôme. On sale during the fete and on each villages’ market day will be honey (especially the chestnuts and chestnut honey from the Ardèche), poultry, lamb, snails, lavender, Ardèche Safran, the herb, olives,  olive oil and much more. The Romans settled in this region 2,000 years ago, and they brought many of the fruit trees, including almondsapricotspeaches, and cherries, among others. In the valleys of the Ardèche, those trees have created orchards that produce fruit that is sold all over France. Call your local French Government Tourist Office for the dates of all the happenings in the village of Saoû and the departments of Drôme and Ardèche.


Music at the fete
                 The English Language website of the Rhone-Alps:

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016. 2020

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman
at
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2 comments:

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